The headline may sound like pure hype, but John Glenn, healthy aging expert Dr. Joan Vernikos, and the space program have produced an astonishing finding: Ordinary non-exercise activity, it turns out, appears to be vital to fighting the aging process and prolonging independent life.
This article is a synopsis of an interview that osteopathic physician Dr. Joseph Mercola conducted with Dr. Vernikos — a retired director of Life Sciences at NASA, former medical school professor, and author of Sitting Kills, Moving Heals. Their interview tells the story of how Vernikos and then-Senator John Glenn, a senior citizen and “return astronaut,” crossed paths, leading to his second trip to space and once again confirming the relationship between gravity and fitness.
John Glenn Returns to Space as a Senior Citizen
On February 20, 1962, John Glenn became the first American astronaut to orbit Earth with the Mercury-Atlas 6 mission. Back then, NASA retired astronauts after one trip, but Glenn always wanted to return to space. Vernikos says that Glenn told her: “Well, I think if I flew again, it could provide information that could help everyone as we age.” At the time, the senator was chair of the Committee on Aging. What he heard about aging in his committee meetings sounded familiar — it paralleled his experiences as an astronaut.
At 77 years old, he did fly again. Glenn went through the same rigorous training as the rest of the crew in addition to maintaining his senate duties. He was in great shape, but, as always, he knew that the recovery period after returning to gravity could pose problems.
While aboard Discovery in 1998, Glenn was treated no differently than his younger colleagues. He participated in the same double-blind physical tests. No one, including Vernikos, knew the results even asshe presented them. All the results were in the same range except one astronaut, who was an outlier. She thought, “Oh, dear, they’re his [Glenn's]. He’s an outlier. He’s older, that’s why.” Imagine the interview audience’s surprise when they learned the outlier was in his mid-thirties! Glenn was still in excellent physical shape.
Gravity, Thou Art Our Enemy!
Vernikos’ research at NASA demonstrates that we have to fight gravity to maintain our fitness, agility, and balance. How do we fight gravity? We stand up. That’s all! We stand up from a sitting or prone position. The harder you fight gravity, the fewer times you have to stand up. Vernikoks recommends standing up a minimum of 35 times a day, if you lead a sedentary lifestyle. If you are bedridden, stand up at least 16 times a day — with assistance if necessary.
The important thing is that we stand throughout the day, not all at once. You don’t have to walk, bend, or exercise to fight gravity — you just have to stand. This doesn’t mean you can skip exercise. That’s important for different reasons.
Without the space program, and specifically the contributions of Dr. Vernikos and John Glenn, we may not have known the importance of standing regularly. Now that we do, it’s time to act on the information. For more information on the importance of these findings, watch the interview (or read the online transcript) and share this information with everyone you know.
Image Source: NASA